top of page

Case study - Ian Watson

“Instead of looking at old photos and feeling sad I’d rather keep active and take new photos so my family and grandkids remember good times with their happy papa.”


Ian Watson has travelled to, and lived in, countries all over the world. As a joiner, a member of the military and as a father and husband. He lives his life to the fullest, sharing experiences and making memories with those he loved most. Even now, six months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, he is still living it - and loving it.


Speaking from his home in Balmullo, Fife the 71-year-old said:

“The important thing I know is to continue to look forward.


“It holds back negative thoughts, keeps me focused on the quality of my life and contributes to the positive legacy I want to leave behind for my family.”


Ian’s journey makes for remarkable reading…


He grew up in Paisley and Glasgow in the 1960s – surrounded by knife-wielding gangs and where showing shades of green or blue meant putting a target on your back. He worked as a joiner for years in the 1970s then in the 1980s moved to Santa Cruz in California, USA where he enlisted in the 101st Airborne where he served in the armed forces for a number of years. Then in March 1986 he returned to Scotland, this time choosing to live in Fife. He returned to construction and through a chance meeting met his wife Sheila.


Sheila, 68, fondly recalls meeting Ian for the first time – she needed work done at her house in Cupar and it was Ian who turned up to help.


Ian joked:

“What was funny was that during the military I had never been taken into enemy hands and as soon as I come to Fife, I’m captured immediately!”


Sheila, a retired accounts manager for Fife Council, said:

“I nailed his foot to the floor and said you’re not going anywhere.”


The pair married in 15 April 1988 at a joint ceremony with Sheila’s sister and her husband. What followed was a typical busy life of raising their two children Finlay and Lorraine, working hard, travelling and then finally in 2015, at the age of 65, Ian retired (and Sheila followed suit a year later). Time to relax, reflect and revel on a life well-lived.


A hard working and devoted family man, Ian enjoyed his retirement – although as Sheila states, he still relaxed at his preferred pace: flat out! Going to the gym three times a week, travelling on holidays and playing with his granddaughters. Things were amazing but unfortunately, life dealt a curve ball. In December 2019 - just before the COVID pandemic – Ian developed a slight cough and started feeling tired. For months it was shrugged off and put down to suddenly having to sit still due to lockdown. But the cough and tiredness worsened as the pandemic progressed.


Sheila explained:


“Ian would start taking naps and he has never done that – he was always going about at 100mph.


“So that’s when I knew we had to speak to someone to check things.”


In November 2021 Ian visited his GP who raised the possibility of mesothelioma and immediately referred him to a specialist. After an X-ray, CT scan and biopsy it was confirmed Ian developed mesothelioma in the lining of the top of his right lung.


Ian said:


“I couldn’t describe the feelings of finding out I had mesothelioma.


“I came out the meeting and couldn’t even remember where I parked the car.”


Sheila added:


“We didn’t really understand what mesothelioma was so we Googled it.


“When we saw ‘terminal’ on the first webpage that’s when things struck us hardest.”


Ian added:


“I was looking at this information and couldn’t comprehend it.


“I’ve always been in control or known what to expect in my life and here everything was up in the air.


“I didn’t know to act or react. How to feel or how I should be.


“There was mixed emotions and questions.”


How long have I got?

What happens next?

What are my options?

Is it worthwhile looking forward to anything?


These were the kinds of questions racing through Ian and Sheila’s minds. Thankfully they didn’t have to wait long for answers and support. A specialist at Victoria Hospital put Ian and his family in touch with Asbestos Action as they knew the charity could provide the kind of hands-on support that was needed. Because while a diagnosis can identify a problem, it’s Asbestos Action that helps you manage it. Their support staff can take a call at any time of the day or week. Can come to your house at any time for any reason. Sit with you for as long as you need. Help you navigate paperwork as you prepare for the future. Speak to the relevant experts and professionals to answer any unique questions you have but don’t know who or how to ask. Anything to enhance the quality of your life through support and advice that empowers choice.


Even though Ian is positive he admits feeling disbelief at times – he acknowledges himself that part of the reason for this is that other than an occasional cough he doesn’t actually feel (or look) poorly. For him the hardest thing therefore is not a physical symptom but dealing with the emotions that followed his diagnosis.


He said:


“The other day I was listening to Alexis French – a fantastic pianist – and it reminded me of my brother who is also a fantastic pianist.


“I’ve not thought of my brother’s music since I was a child myself but I find myself wanting to hear him play again.


“But then I feel these waves of positivity.


“The motto of the 101st is ‘Rendevous with destiny’ – well I know what my destiny is.


“The trick to staying happy is accepting you’re not in control – but who ever really is in control?


“I could be hit by a bus tomorrow so it makes worrying about meso pointless.


“I want to go to Germany again. I want to go on holiday again. Sheila and I want to visit Canterbury together.


“And do you know what – we can and we will.


“We’ve already got a trip to Berlin booked for September 2022.


“I would like people to know there’s a lot of good stuff to keep looking forward to.


“It really is a beautiful world to live in.


“Go out, look at it, enjoy it…


“It doesn’t matter if you’ve one month, 10 months or 10 years.


“Just enjoy what you’ve got – the privilege of being in this world.”

bottom of page